I bet if I asked you what Ron Burgundy’s reaction would have been to the free drinks bar on offer at Adweek, you’d have a pretty good idea. This character, thanks to the wonderful storytelling provided by Will Ferrell and Adam McKay, is so ingrained in our minds that we could probably imagine his response any situation: Oculus Rift; Snapchat. See?
When it comes to script writing, building a strong, well developed character is crucial. It gives her/him a reason to be there, a role in the world. This role has to be clearly demonstrated throughout the script. It doesn’t need to be typical, in fact the odder sometimes the better. However, it does have to be believable and ultimately relatable. Neglecting to build such characters would be fatal to a script and leave the audience unengaged, unsympathetic and indifferent.
We are faced with the same rules when building a brand. A brand builds immense value for a company, as can be seen with the large amounts of money that have been exchanged for the likes of Budweiser, Jaguar and Cadbury. A strong brand promotes recognition, provides differentiation, builds emotional connections. It is a promise of expectation.
We have heard a lot at Adweek Europe about the concept of “Brand Storytelling”, and how it is the easiest way to get people to do what you want them to do or believe what you want them to believe. It certainly can be, but not if you haven’t got your character right.
I work in the wonderful world of OOH, and it is such a pleasure to see brands successfully using the medium to tell and develop their stories. Carlsberg are a great example of this. They have developed a strong character and story for that character to play in, which means they are able to wade in on a variety of relevant live topics/events and provide a genuine, valuable exchange with consumers (I am thinking most recently about the reactionary ‘Beer Body Ready’ DOOH ads and the pop up ‘Chocolate Bar’ at Easter). Carlsberg’s strong tone of voice enabled them to add to the conversation in the area of social media and cut through in a very short space of time (which is, by all accounts, all we have these days).
We know OOH can provide a fantastic canvas for brands to publically share and develop their stories, and it has consequently become the most efficient channel for generating word of mouth. However, brands, like characters, are not built in instantaneous snap moments. Using a media channel to link yourself to an event, issue or news story without first knowing what role you have in that world and what story you are seeking to develop, is an ineffective way to try and connect with an audience, and can damage a brand’s perception. Simply holding up a camera up to the world does not make a brand a storyteller, simply a broadcaster.
We talk a lot about relevancy in OOH, and how much of an impact this can have on performance. Pimms can happily chirp up on a sunny day to announce Pimms O’Clock; Specsavers when a footballer has taken a bite out of a person and not a food item. But imagine if it was the other way around. Would Pimms do themselves any favours calling out Suarez, or Specsavers celebrating over a spot of sunshine? Probably not. They’d leave the audience unengaged, unsympathetic and indifferent.
I would therefore suggest the term synergy is better applied (ouch...that sounded painfully like a line from Anchorman 2). Synergy can develop characters, move the story along, and provide that all important authenticity required for an audience to relate. The more they care about the characters, the more emotion they’ll invest in your story. And maybe that’s the secret.